Penny Mordaunt throws weight behind Truss as Rishi's PM dream dealt another crippling blow

The international trade minister, who narrowly missed out on getting into the final two of the leadership contest, officially introduced Ms Truss at the hustings in Exeter this evening saying that the Foreign Secretary is “the hope candidate”. Getting the support of Ms Mordaunt is a major coup for the Foreign Secretary and allows her to make the case for being the candidate who unites the left and right of the Tory Party. In her response Ms Truss, who was at the England women’s team’s historic European Cup win last night, vowed to “channel the spirit of the Lionesses” in making sure Britain’s “best days are ahead of it.”

Ms Mordaunt was cheered when she revealed to an audience of Tory members that she was backing Ms Truss.

In a dramatic opening she told Tory members that she “likes both candidates” and toyed with them before revealing her pick.

She said: “Liz has shown she will defend freedom at home and abroad, and is prepared to do what it takes to keep us safe. That is why, with her, I believe we can deliver for the public and we can win at the ballot box.”

Ms Mordaunt is now expected to get a top job in Ms Truss’s cabinet and the Foreign Secretary told the audience that she is “proud to have the support of my great friend.”

In the final round of voting by MPs Ms Truss managed to leapfrog Ms Mordaunt into the final two having trailed her throughout the contest.

It was expected that Ms Mordaunt would then stay out of the contest or might even back Rishi Sunak because of bad blood allegedly between her camp and the Foreign Secretary’s.

In particular it had been claimed that supporters of Ms Truss were behind briefings about Ms Mordaunt’s support for trans issues which were used against her in a briefing war by many on the right of the party.

In addition, another failed leadership candidate Suella Braverman also backed the Foreign Secretary after she was eliminated before the television debates.

She had publicly criticised Ms Mordaunt for blocking the word woman being included in emergency legislation for senior female ministers to take maternity leave.

A source from Ms Truss’ campaign told “The plan, not confirmed yet, is that Penny [Mordaunt] introduces Liz at the hustings.

“It’s a real coup for Liz and shows the enormous amount of confidence colleagues have in her pitch to the party.”

An MP added: “Liz has made a successful appeal to the right of the party, particularly the Brexiteers, but this shows that she has a much wider appeal and can bring those in from the left too.”

Unlike Ms Truss, Ms Mordaunt was a supporter of the Leave campaign in 2016 but had failed to really convince the European Research Group (ERG) that she would make the most of Brexit.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak dealt killer blow after Liz Truss secures huge endorsement

However, Mr Sunak, who was introduced by former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, has picked up significant backers as well including former leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt and, this morning, former leader Lord Hague.

But the increasing public backing for Ms Truss is seen as a sign that she is on the cusp of winning a contest thanks to her optimistic view of Britain and rapid tax cutting agenda.

A poll by Redfield and Wilton made her the first Conservative politician since March to be able to beat Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in yet another boost to her campaign.

Ballot papers have started arriving today with Tory members and the result will be announced on September 5.

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